My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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ATHENS, Greece—We spent Wednesday morning in the National museum, a wonderfully interesting place. Here you see the actual sculptures which were done by the Greek artists between the third and eighth centuries before Christ. There were also some wonderfully fine funeral urns and pottery of geometric designs.

Afterwards we were allowed to go into a room which is not yet open to the public but which will be soon. Here we could see the evolution in pottery from the geometric to the classical figures. The Greek lady who showed us around remarked that Greece had evolved and always in every period moved forward. I thought of the 25 hundred years that we could cover in the museum and perhaps I looked a little awed, so she added "There are other nations which have evolved and moved forward. The U.S. has in its history up to now!" I was amused because, of course, I knew that this was a reference to Senator McCarthy and the attitude of the Congressional Committee which caused the State Department to send out a list of books to the different information centers which were no longer to be allowed on the shelves and some of which were therefore burned, and all over Europe and Asia this has made a tremendous impression.

The New York Tribune carried a reprint of an editorial which explained that Senator McCarthy's attitude was not that anyone should not have the right to expression or that anyone should not have the right to read but simply that the U.S. government should not buy, pay for, or distribute books which opposed beliefs held by the majority of Americans and which were considered to be pro-Communist literature.

The difficulty about this kind of censorship, however, is that even a book written by a communist author who tries to slant the point of view of the material he uses, may be a book which one should read in order to get some understanding of the communist point of view. Perhaps the government should not buy such books but if they are already on the shelves of a government office, it seems to me a pity to censor those who might find it useful to read them.

The list of authors which I read through as being no longer allowed seemed to me to contain a number of people who are not known communists. They may not be orthodox in their point of view but I cannot help thinking it is a good idea when you know about all kinds of thinking which goes on in the U.S. among the people who write. No one has tried to prevent literature which is going out from certain fascist organizations such as the Gerald L. K. Smith and Merwin K. Hart groups. Why should we then try to prevent another point of view being heard? It surely would not all be communist. Some might come from good Americans who were just "different ."


Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Athens (Greece) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, July 8, 1953

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Digital edition published 2008, 2017 by
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MEP edition publlished on 2008-06-30

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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.